This is the velocity chart for Brett Cecil’s last appearance of 2012.
Brett transitioned to the bullpen in 2012, after trying, and failing to find a way to be effective with an 89mph fastball as a starter. When he switched to relief, he picked up some speed on his fastball. His hardest pitch on that night was a 2-seam fastball at 92.81 miles per hour, as per Brooks Baseball.
Pitch f/x also classified a pitch at 88mph as a changeup. Brett’s average changeup in 2012 was 82mph. His average changeup in 2011 was 80mph. I’m inclined to think that this is actually one ‘not very fast’ ball, which confused the classification algorithm. If I’m right, the average fastball velocity for this outing is even lower than 91.5 mph.
That’s the old Brett Cecil. Over the winter, Brett took a shot at Delabarization, to see if it would help his arm strength. Now 173 pitches in to 2013, were looking at a whole different guy.
From a long outing against the Yankees, 37 pitches, the velocity chart:
Suddenly, Cecil can step on the gas. Two other things have also changed. I’m not sure whether the velocity increase caused the change in release point, or if it’s the other way around, but Cecil has been dropping his arm slot quite significantly over the last 2 years.
That’s a 7 inch drop, which is fairly significant. The other result of changes is more waek contact. Batters have a 13.6% line drive rate in 2013 (per fangraphs) compared to a 21.7% rate in 2012, and a career LD rate of 18.7%. With more frequent use of his 2 seam fastball, I would have assumed that it was coming from better ‘sink’ on the ball. I would have assumed wrong. Brett’s pitches have pretty much the same, or less vertical break than before. And his flyball/ground ball ratio is about the same as his career level, at .90.
So he’s not turnign into a ground ball pitcher. Brett has reduced the hard contact by throwing harder, dropping down, and getting more horizontal movement on his pitches.
Could Brett Cecil have changed his arm angle and managed to get more break without going through the conditioning program he did? I do wonder about that a little. I’m more inclined to believe that all these factors are interdependent, and the arm angle, velocity and pitch movement are all playing off of one another to result in a much more effective Cecil.
And that’s all the Blue Jays really wanted all along, isn’t it?
As always, props to Brooks Baseball and Fangraphs for making all the pitcher data available an understandable. Cecil’s pages here and here, respectively. Other theories as to what has transformed Cecil into the new guy he seems to be… are welcome in the comments.